Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 82
Gaijin Hunt

"Well, we'll just have to start with you, then, won't we?"

Hato's words, and the leers the other two men were giving Duo turned him cold and sick with deja vu. He looked around, half expecting to see the soldiers who'd molested him that night at the lunar base. These weren't the same men, of course, just the same type: sadistic bastards. Duo noted the screaming eagle tattoo on the hand of the big wrestler-type Japanese guy to Hato's left, recognizing it from some of the photos Hato had sent. These men had raped Heero. His Heero! The thought killed Duo's fears for his own safety.

Hato seemed to sense the shift. He drew a pistol and took aim at Heero's chest. "Step outside the cell, Maxwell, or I will shoot him."

Duo sneered, trying to mask his own alarm, He had to stall for time; he had to think of some way they all got out of this in one piece. "Wouldn't that kinda spoil your fun? I thought I was just the appetizer in this little show you got planned."

"This now, you mean? No, this is just a dress rehearsal, a matinee show for the locals. Even as we speak, people are flying in from all over the world for the main attraction I have planned for tonight. And you'll be nothing more than the opening act, pilot 02. But it seems you need some coaxing."

Hato shifted his aim and pulled the trigger. The shot was deafening in this tiny concrete room, but it didn't drown out the screams that followed. He'd shot Yuki in the upper arm. Heero pulled the boy across his lap, using Duo's cast off shirt to try and staunch the flow of blood as Yuki writhed and sobbed. Given the boy's severely abused condition, though, the shock alone could kill him.

That was it. Duo lost it. Letting out a scream of his own, he flew at Hato, catching him across the face with both thumb razors before the man could react. He went after screaming eagle guy next, but the other gunman swung the butt of his semi automatic into Duo's gut, catching him on his already bruised ribs. He tried to stay upright but someone cold cocked him again.

//Fuck, they've got this down to an art!// Duo thought as the floor came up to meet him.

+

It was already dawn when Wufei set off with Nakamura and Shiner to meet their contact. The mysterious figure wouldn't come anywhere near Preventers agents, so they headed out to meet him at a 24-hour diner near the docks.

Fortunately Wufei had anticipated the possibility of undercover work before he and Sally left New Orleans. Squeezed into the tiny back seat of Nakamura's sleek black ZX Jagan, he wore the cheap street clothes Duo had purchased for him on L-4 the day he and Heero had brought Wufei down to New Orleans that first time: cheap blue jeans and knock off sneakers, and the baggy Foo Dogs sweat shirt. His Preventer badge hung on a chain around his neck, hidden under his shirt. He was about to tuck his hair under the cap when Shiner turned around in the shotgun seat and handed him a black and white bandana.

"You'll attract less attention with this. Know how to tie a 'Tokyo rag'?"

"No," Wufei replied, though he had an idea what the man meant.

Shiner demonstrated how to twist his hair up into a tight knot at the back of his head, then tie the folded bandana around his head to hold it in place.

Nakamura looked at him in the rearview. "Not bad. You could pass for Japanese. When we get to the diner, just keep your mouth shut and try to look like you work for me. I'll make sure you get all the info you need. Copy that?"

Wufei sighed. "I have a choice?"

Shiner grinned, tugging at the OZ emblem on his dog collar. "Nope. Don't worry, kid. Masa told Zechs he'd take care of you. Damn, I can see why, too. You even shaving yet?"

Wufei bit back a scathing retort, knowing the man was baiting him. These men did not need to know that Wufei only needed to shave a few times a month, a fact he chose to believe had more to do with his race, rather than his age. He could see Nakamura's eyes in the rearview, and but couldn't tell if he was grinning.

Shiner was clearly enjoying having Wufei at his mercy. "What do you think, Masa? That Gundam must have had training wheels, huh?"

"That's enough, Keno-chan," Nakamura said quietly, surprising both his boyfriend and Wufei. Those eyes weren't smiling now. Shiner glanced at his lover in annoyance, and saw something that wiped the last of his grin off his face. He slumped down in his seat, pointedly ignoring Wufei for the rest of the drive. Wufei smirked a little, noting that Nakamura had used "chan" rather than "san" or even "kun." There was no mistaking who wore the proverbial pants in this relationship.

The diner turned out to be a run-down little greasy spoon that catered to prostitutes and junkies. A thin, stringy-haired young derelict with "addict" written all over him was waiting for them in a back booth. Nakamura motioned for Shiner to slide in beside the 'contact'. Wufei sat next to Nakamura and tried to look like one of his boys.

Nakamura nodded at him. "What do you have for me, Saito?"

The junkie regarded him with dull, bloodshot eyes. "Got something for me?"

Nakamura took a small blue eyedropper bottle from his pocket and set it on the table in front of him. Wufei recognized the street package, and his suspicion was confirmed by the hungry look in their contact's eyes. It was Blue Dragon, a low-quality, highly addictive opiate. The addict reached for it with dirty, trembling fingers, but Nakamura bracketed the bottle with his hands, holding him at bay. "What do you have for me, Saito-kun? Is it worth a taste?"

Saito never took his eyes from that bottle as he replied, "I heard on the street you're looking for a couple of gaijin snooping around? I was in the Samurai last night, sweeping floors? And these two guys come in. I never seen 'em around before. One spoke Japanese, but he didn't have no local sound, ya know?"

He reached toward the bottle again, but Nakamura swept it up and pocketed it. "You're wasting my time."

"No! I got more! The one who spoke Japanese? He started asking about the S.K.U.M. vids and I could tell some of the guys were taking notice. Then he asked about some guy named Koudo? After they left, the bartender sent a coupla guys to follow them. And he made a call."

"To who?"

Saito blinked anxiously at the bottle in Nakamura's hand. "I--uh, I didn't hear. But it was local. I could tell cause he only dialed the six numbers."

"Who'd he send out?"

Saito thought hard, blinking and rubbing at his nose. "I only know one of 'em. Big Fish. He's ex-sumo. Hangs out there all the time. He's got a squat over on Third, couple of blocks from here. I can show ya! C'mon, just give me a little taste first, for the shakes?"

"All right, but I measure." Nakamura opened the bottle and took out the calibrated dropper. Saito leaned over the table, mouth open, eyes squeezed shut in anticipation. Nakamura let a tiny drop fall on the man's tongue. Saito swallowed quickly, then shuddered and fell back in the booth beside Shiner with a look of sheer ecstasy on his face.

Wufei shook his head, knowing it would be a short ride, and one that could only end in more shakes and cravings and sweats. The whole performance made him a little queasy. Is this how he would have ended up, if his friends and Zechs hadn't rescued him?

"Grab him, Keno. Get him moving," Nakamura ordered.

Shiner slid out and pulled Saito to his feet. "Big Fish, Saito-kun. You're taking us to his squat, right?"

"Right, right!" Saito agreed, happy and energized now. He practically ran out of the diner, anxious to earn another hit.

Hurrying along with the others, Wufei muttered, "This is how you work? Preying on the weaknesses of derelicts?"

Nakamura stopped in his tracks and halted Wufei with a hand to his chest. "Too dirty for a terrorist like you?" he said softly, voice full of undisguised scorn and a bit of menace. He closed the distance between them, looming over Wufei, getting in his face. "You want we should walk away? Or maybe you should just call Tzuki and let her handle it that nice, clean Preventer way. That really worked, didn't it? Think your friends have that kind of time?"

Startled, Wufei fell back a step. This man had an undeniable aura of power and control, too, just like Zechs. But it was different when that aura was not backed up by love and respect. He thought of that collar Shiner wore and wondered if it was more than just an affectation. But like it or not, though, this man was currently his best hope. He shrugged, backing down. "No. We do it your way."

"Damn straight. Come on, before Keno loses the crazy poppyhead."

Big Fish's squat was on the third floor of an abandoned tenement building. They climbed the rickety stairs and came out in a dusty hallway lit by a dirty, broken skylight. Drawing a large Sig, Nakamura put an arm around Saito and leaned close to his ear. "I need him to open the door, and even better if you can get him out into the hall. You do this right, and I'll give you the whole bottle. Got it?" He pressed some money into the man's hand.

Saito drew himself up and gave Nakamura a surprisingly crisp, Academy-style salute, those bloodshot eyes still bright and clear from the last 'taste'. "Understood, Colonel. You know you can depend on me!" he whispered, then took off down the hallway, peering at dusty door numbers.

"He was one of your men," Wufei whispered.

Nakamura spared him a terse nod, and then followed Saito, hugging the wall with his weapon drawn.

Saito knocked at the door. "Fish? Hey, Fish, you in there? I got some dosh. Can you fix me up? C'mon, man! I need it bad. I can pay this time, honest!"

Wufei found himself watching the man with a little more compassion. He might have been a good soldier once, and still had some smarts left when the drug was boosting his remaining brain cells.

After a moment they heard a gruff, muffled answer.

"Yeah, I got it. It's still fifty for a half bottle, right?" Saito called. "I got fifty!" He held the money Nakamura had given him up to the spy hole.

Wufei heard the sounds of a couple of heavy deadbolts and the rattle of a security chain, then the door opened and a short fat man in a pair of baggy boxers stepped out, yawning. "You better not be fucking with me, Saito. I'll tear your fucking--"

That was as far as he got before he felt the cold muzzle of Nakamura's pistol pressed to his temple. Wufei and Shiner stepped out and covered him with their weapons, too. Big Fish's black slanted eyes widened, then rolled in disgust. "Saito, you are one dead mother fucker!"

Nakamura reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a hundred-credit bill. "He wasn't lying, Fish. He needs it bad. You fix him up and keep the extra for your trouble. I just need some info."

The money had a remarkably calming effect on the big man. "Info, huh? Hey, all you had to do was ask me nice, eh? What you need to know?"

"You tailed a couple of gaijin out of the Samurai last night."

Fish shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

"Why?"

"Some guy paid me to watch out for anyone dropping certain names."

"Like what?"

"Koudo. Heidiki Koudo."

"Who is that?"

"Fuck if I know. What do I care? Never heard of the fucker before a couple of weeks ago. Me and some other guys at the bar just got paid to listen for it, that's all."

"Who were the men you followed?"

"Men? Naw, just a couple of foreign kids. Didn't get much of a look at 'em. They was kinda bundled up, like they didn't want to be spotted. But one of 'em spoke English. Couldn't understand him, but the other guy, the blonde one? He spoke Japanese like a spacer."

"So you heard them ask about that name and then you followed them. Where'd they go?"

"Just wandered around, mostly, like they was lost. I followed 'em to the mission, then called it in. Don't know where they went after that. Wasn't my problem after that."

"You reported in to someone, right? Who?"

The fat man scratched under his considerable paunch. "That what you really want to know? Maybe that's gonna cost extra."

Nakamura handed him a second hundred-credit bill. The moment the man took it, he cocked his gun and pressed it to Fish's forehead. "OK. The next thing you get from me is a bullet between the eyes. Who did you report to?"

"Just a number, that's all I got," Fish replied, not looking particularly unnerved to have a gun to his head. "Come on in, I got it written down.

Wufei followed Fish and Nakamura into the squalid flat, and caught his breath at the stink. There was broken furniture everywhere, scattered food boxes, magazine pictures of naked women in obscene positions the only decoration on the walls. A thin, strung-out looking woman glared at them from a filthy mattress in the corner, hugging a threadbare blanket around her shoulders.

Fish hunted through the mess for his discarded trousers and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from the pocket. "Here it is, bro. All yours."

Nakamura took it and glanced at it. "This is all you have?"

"Like I said, bro. I just was supposed to call and tell whoever answered where the two guys was. I called twice, once right after they left the bar, and then again when they went into that mission over on the square. You know the one with the blue cross out front? The man I talked to, he said he'd take it from there, and told me where to pick up the rest of my money. I went back to the Samurai and got it out from behind one of the toilet tanks in the men's crapper. It was in a plastic bag." He held up a small bag as proof.

"I'll take that, and the money," Wufei said, plucking the bag away by one corner, hoping for fingerprints.

"You're welcome to the bag, kid, but I don't got the money no more. Had bills to pay, you know?" He grinned at Wufei. "Want to know where I spent it? It'll cost you."

"No, this is fine," Nakamura said shortly. He gave him one last fifty. "No hard feelings for Saito, right?"

"Hell no, bro. Easy money!"

As soon as they were in the car again Nakamura handed the slip of paper with the phone number to Wufei.

He pulled out his cell and dialed Tzuki.

"Chang. Did the source work out?"

"Yes, Major. It went well. I have a number I need you to trace, please."

"Let me have it."

"20-1143."

"Got it. I'll call you back as soon as I have something. Shouldn't take too long. Do you need to speak with Po?"

"Please." Wufei listened as the cell phone was passed along. Sally must have been standing right beside her.

"Wufei, you've got a lead?"

"Maybe. Where are you?"

"Still at the abandoned house, ready to mobilize if this lead turns out to be something. What are you doing now?"

"Our source said they went to a mission around here."

"Sisters of Mercy," Shiner told him.

"Sisters of Mercy," Wufei repeated for Sally. "We're going to check that out next."

"OK. Good luck."

Wufei hung up and slipped the phone back into the pocket of his sweatshirt. "So you know what mission the man was talking about?"

Nakamura nodded and gunned away from the curb. "I can have you there in five minutes."

The mission in question was a large homeless shelter and soup kitchen. Wufei ignored the nun on duty's skeptical look and showed his badge. He found himself hoping that Heero and Duo had stayed here for some reason. But of course, things couldn't be that easy.

"Major Chang?" The woman shook her head, clearly distrusting the oddly dressed trio the three of them made. Nakamura still looked like yakuza in daylight, and Wufei and Shiner probably struck her as gang. Wufei silently cursed his disguise, realizing he was still wearing the bandana. He pulled it off and stuck it in a pocket.

The sister gave him another skeptical look; his long, disheveled hair didn't seem to be much of an improvement. "Stay here, please. I'll get Sister Mary Agnes. She was on duty last night.

Sister Mary Agnes turned out to be a tired-looking middle-aged woman. She listened carefully to Wufei's description. "A long braid? Dark hair? No, the only foreigners we had in last night were a blond and a boy with a hat."

//That could have been them,// Wufei thought, recalling the disguises the pair had worn when they'd met him and Zechs at the airport. "What were they here for?"

"They were asking about a homeless boy who came through here a few years back. I only remembered him because he was an artist." She led them back to a message board and showed them a very good drawing of an angel who looked a lot like Maxwell. It had been them, all right. "That's his work. They recognized it right away." She hesitated, and Wufei had the distinct impression she was nervous about something.

"Please, Sister, anything you can tell us would be helpful. Lives are at stake."

"Well, they also asked about Mr. Hato."

Hato! Wufei sensed a definite strain in the woman's voice and exchanged a knowing look with Nakamura. "How did they know him?"

"They didn't. I do." She was twisting her hands anxiously now. "Mr. Hato has been very kind to the mission, both monetarily, and finding work for some of our boys. But one of those young men last night suggested that his motives might not be purely altruistic. I've been praying on it ever since, trying to decide if I should call the police."

"Don't worry, Sister. The Preventers are already on the case. You've been very helpful."

"These boys last night, were they Preventers?" she asked hopefully.

"We're working on the same investigation," Wufei told her. "Do you know where I can find Hato?"

"No, as I told those other agents, he just comes by when he needs someone for chores. I think he lives in the neighborhood by the old academy."

"Thank you, you've--" Just then Wufei's cell rang. He excused himself and took the call outside on the steps. "Tzuki? You have something?"

"The number you gave me is for a business called Black Pearl Exports. The address is 2459 East Wharf Street."

Wufei passed this on to Nakamura.

The man's dark eyes narrowed.

"Damn, that's right next door to the place we checked out last night!" Shiner exclaimed.

"Another warehouse?"

"No, it was a cannery. It's been partially converted into retail space and offices, but most of it is still empty. The place is huge."

"Did you get that, Major?"

"I did, Chang. I'm on my way now with the strike team. And Chang? I hope we're right this time. There's been no sign of your friends."

+

Duo came to this time gagging on the sharp odor of smelling salts. Someone was intent on bringing him around. He was lying on his stomach, and when he tried to sit up, he found he was tied down bent over a cold metal table.

Oh shit.

He struggled, and only succeeded in figuring out that someone had stripped him before they'd tied him, and that who ever had done the hogtying knew what he was doing. Duo couldn't budge more than a couple of inches. He was buck-naked and spread eagled. It didn't take a genius to guess what was coming next. His thumbs hurt like hell, too, like someone had torn the nails down too far. Guess they'd twigged to the razors at last.

Fighting back panic, he raised his head as far as he could and found himself looking Hato straight in the eye. The bastard was grinning more than ever now, in spite of the two long cuts Duo had managed to give him, one down his left cheek, the other just over his eye.

"Awake again," he said, capping the smelling salts bottle. "My, you are going to have a nasty headache if you keep making us knock you out like that. It did make our job easier, though. Comfortable?"

Duo turned his head away, and saw that he was now in a very large, poorly lit room somewhere. It still smelled like cellar, though, and from the corner of his eye he could just make out what appeared to be the same door he'd seen in the cell. There were more men here now, perhaps a dozen from what he could see. And, he saw with a shudder of revulsion, there was a camera set up on a tripod.

"Tell me, pilot 02," Hato said, stepping back into Duo's field of vision. "You seem to be somewhat familiar with the S.K.U.M. vids. I wonder if you've seen the lunar base slut series?"

Duo just gave him a black glare. He knew enough to know which scene Hato was planning to reenact and that knowledge brought back all the old terror and dread. The feeling closed in on him worse when Hato stepped back and showed Duo what he'd been holding behind his back.

It was a wide leather OZ uniform belt.

Of all the scenes the bastards had made up, how had this guy chosen the one that had really happened?

Hato took up his position beside the table and wrapped the end of the belt around his fist. It was the wrong end, Duo noted, trying not to show his panic. The big, sharp edged buckle swung free by Hato's knee, glinting evilly.

That was going to leave some serious marks.

"Now, my young friend, this is going to hurt quite a lot," Hato assured him. "We both know that, don't we? I do hope you won't try to be noble. My friends here have paid generously for our matinee show. I hope you'll give them their money's worth, both now and during the actual rapes."

Duo struggled frantically against the ropes, knowing it was hopeless but unable to stop himself. All his worst nightmares were coming true. He looked back at the heavy wooden door, trying harder to see if it was the one to the cell. Some guy was manning the camera now.

//Heero! Heero, help me--//

Too late. The first lash of the belt burned across his back and tore a scream from his throat. Fuck, he must have gotten soft these past few years, he thought wildly. He never used to scream so soon!

The audience cheered and clapped. Hato brought the belt down across his ass this time, and Duo struggled again, fighting back tears already. //He wouldn't beg. He wouldn't beg. He'd never, ever begged . . .//

//Oh my god, it's worse than I remember! Somebody help me!//

The belt ripped into him again, and again, and he could feel the hot trickle of blood down his hip. He thrashed against the pain, against the ropes, and the fingers of his left hand found a few tight knots. It was no use; he wasn't going to get those loose any time soon. He was going to get seriously hurt here, fucking serious, if he didn't figure out something, but what?

Blow after blow slashed down, and in the midst of his agony, he had an inspiration. Not even waiting for the next strike, he opened his mouth and did something Duo Maxwell had sworn he would never, ever do.

He just prayed Heero was on the other side of that door, and that he was listening!

+

Lost in confusion, unable to separate memory from the reality of his situation, trapped in the manacles, just as he had been before, Heero had still tried hard to stop the men when they'd stripped the clothing off Duo's limp, unconscious body and dragged him from the room. Two more of Hato's men hurried in and beat Heero down, kicking the breath from him and leaving him in a pain-wracked heap on the floor. The door slammed and locked. Heero staggered up and threw himself at it, but it only rattled on its heavy hinges.

"Oh Duo! I'm so sorry!" he gasped, then collapsed next to Yuki.

The boy was unconscious now, too. His face was pale, his skin clammy and moist. 'Shock,' Heero thought. He'd tied off the wound as best he could, and felt the shift of the shattered bone under his hands. There was nothing more he could do. There wasn't anything to splint the bone with.

In an agony of desperation, Heero rose and paced the cell, listening for anything outside. At last he thought he heard clapping. Then he heard Duo scream.

The sound cut through him like a knife and he threw himself at the door again. Another scream.

"Duo! No! Leave him alone, you bastards! Don't hurt him!"

He didn't remember it like this. It had been him being hurt. Duo had been safe, far away. He wasn't supposed to be here! Why the hell was he here?

He pressed his ear to the door and heard what sounded like gunshots. No, it wasn't that. It was something else . . . Vague memories stirred again as Duo screamed again and again.

They were whipping him! The lunar base . . . No, he hadn't heard it then . . .

Duo's screams climbed higher, then words came.

"Heero! Help me, Heero! Please, make them stop! Oh please god, make them stop hurting me! Heero, help me. Help me! Help me!"

He'd never, ever heard Duo ask for help. Duo Maxwell had never begged in his life.

"Stop it!" Heero cried out, shocked at how loud and deep his own voice sounded. "Stop hurting him! Stop it! I'll kill you, you bastards!" He pounded on the door again, and only when he saw the blood running down his wrists did he realize that the chain that had held the cuffs together had snapped. He'd snapped the links! His hands were free!

He wasn't weak, or sick, or beaten down. Duo was the one being abused, and he was still screaming for help.

Heero took a step back, examined the door latch, cataloging the mechanism, and then aimed a perfectly placed kick next to the handle.

Duo heard the screech of metal over his own cries. The whipping abruptly stopped and suddenly men were yelling and running and guns were being fired. Duo couldn't get his head up far enough to really see what was going on, only that bodies were flying past him now, thrown like rag dolls.

"Heero? Heero!"

There was no answer, just more chaos, but Duo caught sight of his grim, inexorable lover breaking the neck of the guy with the eagle on his hand. The look on his face scared even Duo.

The fighting didn't last long, and ended in more gunfire and the echoing sound of running feet.

Then it was over and Heero was there, sawing at the ropes with one big-ass knife. He still had those metal cuffs on, and both hands were bloody. More blood spattered his face and chest and his eyes were wild.

"Heero! Knew you'd get to me," Duo said, almost laughing with relief, in spite of the burning pain he felt from his back to his knees. Hato must have cut him up good with that fucking buckle!

The ropes came loose at last and Heero literally scooped Duo up in his arms and half crushed him in a fierce embrace. "So sorry! I shouldn't ever have brought you here! Duo, forgive me!"

Duo wiggled free enough to get Heero's face between his hands. "It's OK, baby. You saved me! I'm fine, really. They just roughed me up a little."

"That's what you said last time!" Heero sobbed, still not letting Duo out of his arms. "You're bleeding!"

"Yeah, well this time it's the truth," Duo replied, hugging him. "You saved me from that fate worse than death, Heero. Shinigami's honor. He just whipped my ass, that's all. Now we gotta get the fuck out of here! Some of them got away, right?"

"Yes." And just like that, Heero was all mission mode again. He carried Duo back through the broken door of the cell and set him on his feet to examine the damage. Duo twisted around and grimaced. As he'd feared, the buckle had cut him, but it was more painful than serious. Heero helped him into his clothes.

Duo felt one hundred percent better now that he was dressed, even with his shirt and jeans sticking to the blood. Hell, Shinigami could take a beating any day! He always could. All the same, he silently promised Heero Yuy endless foot rubs and blowjobs for breaking out of that cell when he had. Another few minutes . . .

He shook off the black, soul sapping "what ifs" for now. It was time to go. He checked on the unconscious boy.

"How is he?" asked Heero, checking the clip of a semi automatic rifle he'd captured.

Duo felt the boy's pulse. "Not so good."

"If we move him, he could die. But if we leave him, he will die." Heero hefted the skinny, limp body over his left shoulder easily. "You take the gun, 02."

"I'll cover us," Duo agreed, checking the clip. It was half empty. Oh well, Heero had a knife. "Come on. Time to bug the fuck out!"

He stepped to the door, only to have Heero yank him back as a shot ricocheted off the doorframe inches from his face.

"You didn't think I'd let you go that easily, did you?" Hato called out from some distance away. His voice echoed around in the large room beyond.

Duo peered out more cautiously. This was no basement. The room he'd been tied up in looked as big as a suit bay. The ceiling must have been a hundred feet up. There was some industrial-looking lighting up there, and Duo could make out what looked like metal catwalks and men moving around there.

He pulled back, heart pounding. "This is no house, Heero. They must have moved Yuki somewhere else while he was asleep or something."

Heero nodded. "A warehouse, maybe? I think we're under ground. I didn't see any sign of windows."

Duo sighed. So they weren't home free yet. "Looks like we're going to have to fight our way out, huh?"

Heero nodded again. "I'm really sorry, Duo."

"No need, 'ro. I should have taken better care of you. But hey, we're more or less loose and armed. It ain't over 'til it's over, right? I'm thinking maybe we should leave the kid here for now, though, and come back for him. This'll probably get ugly."

"Copy that." Heero gently placed the boy in the far corner of the room, well away from the open door. He looked so pathetic lying there, half naked and so weak, the shirt around his right arm soaked through with blood. Tears stung Duo's eyes; the kid probably wouldn't make it either way.

"OK, 01. Ready to rock and roll?"

"Ready. I'll go first and draw their fire. You spot the shooters and take them out."

"Heero, no, wait!" Duo objected, but it was too late. Heero was already out the door, zigzagging across the huge open space beyond, and at least two shooters were already firing at him.

Without a second thought, Duo followed, guns blazing.

Well, gun, anyway.

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